Name: Ciara Parks
Hometown: Sidney, Montana
School Serving: Central High School, Providence, RI
What made you decide to join City Year?
Growing up, I loved being involved and having things to do, so I began volunteering and doing community service when I was 13. I lived in a small town and in high school I wasn't that interested in sports, so community service clubs seemed like a good way to spend my time. I found myself loving service projects and volunteering—I was able to give back to my community and be a part of a community simultaneously. As I continued onto college, service remained a large part of my life. From a month-long service trip to India, to volunteering at a local daycare, I felt so fulfilled when I was engaged in service. Additionally, I discovered a passion in learning about social justice issues and found myself wanting to pursue a path that would promote equity and social justice. As college graduation quickly approached, I found myself being drawn towards a year of service and the opportunity to be involved in something larger than myself. Choosing to do a year of service with City Year became an obvious choice after I learned about the organization's values and mission, and the opportunity City Year would provide to serve young people. I am grateful for the opportunity this year has provided me to work towards social justice and be with the youth of today and tomorrow's leaders.
Why are you committed to serving with City Year?
I am committed to serving with City Year because I believe in the young people we serve, the power of service, and social justice. I find that my values and hopes for the world are consistent with the ideals that City Year expresses. City Year champions the idea that young people are powerful and able to cause change. I am inspired by my teammates, leadership, and the staff who are dedicated to building a stronger, more empathetic community and nation. I enjoy being a part of an organization that sees potential in difficult situations and puts values into tangible and impactful action. Above all, I am committed to serving with City Year because of my students. They deserve to be surrounded by people that love and believe in them, especially adults that see their worth and potential. It is an honor to spend my days with them.
How do you know you are making a difference?
It is the smallest moments that show me that I am making a difference. My students work so hard, but it can often feel like the work we are doing results in one step forward and four steps backwards. Then, there are moments where it is so clear that growth is taking place. A student will find me in the hallway before lunch to see if we can have two leadership lunches that week. Or when a student is confused and needs help, then looks for me, trusting that I will be there to help in any way. During tests there are times when a student is confused and asks for help, since I can't help, I just ask, "If I could help, what would I say?" And off they go, "You would ask, what's the goal? And I would say..." Then I leave them to work and they get the answer correct independently. I know I am making a difference when my students proudly tell me about an accomplishment, a good grade, a funny story and we are able to celebrate their hard work and successes together.
What does it mean to you to have Bain Capital sponsor your team?
I serve in a first-year partnership at Central High School, a partnership that is supported and sponsored by Bain Capital. Serving on the first City Year team at Central has been challenging at moments, but also immensely rewarding. I have gotten to help set the stage for what it means to have City Year in a school and also reach a new population of students. This has meant bringing new ideas and events to Central, such as teacher appreciation events, a bake off, attendance celebrations, motivational speakers and a Black History Month Festival. We also have morning programs that students look forward to on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, excited to take part in the games, dances, and crafts. Most importantly, having Bain Capital as a sponsor means that we get to spend our days with the 9th grade students. We were all new to the school and we had the opportunity to discover this new place along with our students. I am grateful for Bain Capital's support of our City Year team at Central because it means that this year's freshman class will never know Central High School without City Year.
Please share a Starfish Story.
I serve in a 9th grade Algebra I classroom. A couple months into the year, a number of new students joined my third period class, one of whom was Vanessa. Period 3 is full of students with a lot of energy and opinions. Then, in the middle of this commotion is Vanessa—hardworking, intelligent, and witty. From the moment she entered our classroom I was struck by her good nature and kindness. However, she struggled to stay focused. We began working together and I noticed how meticulous she was—it is common to see students with unorganized notes and numbers everywhere on the paper, but Vanessa was always so neat and organized. She was dedicated to becoming a better student, setting a goal to make honor roll for third quarter. One big struggle has been staying off her phone while in class. It is tempting to be playing games or texting friends and we talked about how this is detrimental to her learning. Sometimes, I would even ask to take her phone to completely remove the temptation. One of my proudest moments was when I was on my lunch break and before Vanessa headed to class, she came to the City Year office and gave me her phone. She knew that during class there would be a quiz and wanted to give me her phone to alleviate any temptation to look at it and get a zero on the quiz. It was an honor to recognize the trust she placed in me and see her growth. Working with Vanessa has been one of the greatest joys of my year. She has shown me the importance of persistence, patience, and trust. I cannot wait to see where the rest of this year takes her.